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2001 Camaro Z28 Project Car - Infusion
Project Black Betty Gets A Bit More Power And A Much Better Clutch.
Feb 1, 2011
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2001 Camaro Z28 Project Car - Infusion
Look up the word cramped in the dictionary and there just might be a picture of a fourth-gen's engine bay. It's made even worse by GM's decision to shove a third of the engine under the windshield. Our particular 5.7L LS1 ran pretty good even with 110,000 miles on the odometer, but it had a couple of oil leaks and we wanted just a bit more horsepower.
Sure, you can do a heads and cam swap from the topside, but since we were also replacing a leaky rack, seeping rear main, and installing a new clutch, we decided to drop the engine out of the car. After all, this is how GM puts it into place at the factory. By going this route, we didn't need to pull the radiator, nose, or a lot of other parts. Total time to drop it out was about an hour.
With the cam in place, we re-installed the sprocket and chain. We had an extra LS2 timing chain lying around, so we tossed it on in place of the slightly stretched-out original chain. If you are doing this type of swap on a high-mileage engine, then it's wise to spend a few bucks on a good replacement chain.
With the top end of the engine stripped off, we were ready to start putting in the new parts. First up was this new cam from COMP. Now, in California the smog police are always sniffing around our tailpipes. This meant we needed a cam that would still pass muster at our bi-annual emission inspections. What we settled on was a 216/220 (@ 0.050) 0.525/0.532 on a 114 LSA. Sure, we wanted to go bigger, but it wasn't worth being hassled by The Man.
Another good item to replace while you're there is the oil pump. In our case we went with a replacement unit from Melling (PN M295) that we picked up from Summit Racing. We then replaced the front cover after adding a new front crank seal and timing cover gasket with pieces from our Fel-Pro kit.
Another hard-to-get-to, wear-and-tear item we replaced is the hydraulic roller lifters. We hit up COMP for a set of their Magnum lifters.
Rather than mess with porting our current heads, we picked up a set of these CNC-machined heads (PN 2013) from Patriot Performance. Some notable features are Viton rubber seals, titanium retainers, custom-honed bronze guides, and a five-angle valve job. At $1,245 they're also affordable.
The Stage II heads feature 21-4N 2.02 intake and 1.57 exhaust stainless steel valves. According to Patriot, these heads flow 65 cfm more than stock, and the 64cc chamber will up the compression on our LS1 from 10:1 to 10.5:1.
After scraping the deck squeaky clean, we were ready to install the new Patriot heads. For head gaskets, we went with replacement factory-style MLS gaskets from Fel-Pro (PN 1161R, 1161L).
In preparation for installing the new ACT clutch kit, we used a puller to ditch the old pilot bearing. This is another wear item that should be replaced when installing a new clutch. The roller bearing (PN 14061685) runs around $15 and can be found everywhere, from Summit Racing to your local GM dealer. We also replaced our rear main seal and rear cover gasket with new stuff from our Felpro gasket kit.
We knew the clutch was pretty much worn out when we bought our Z28, so this was the perfect time to do an upgrade. We went with this LS kit (PN GM9-HDSS) from Advanced Clutch Technology (ACT) because it offered great pedal feel, quick shifts, and enough holding to handle our spirited driving habits.
With the heads in place, we secured them using a head bolt kit (PN 134-3609) from ARP. Besides being far stronger than the factory torque-to-yield pieces, they can be reused over and over.
First up was bolting on ACT's new lightweight XACT LS flywheel (PN 600585). Forged from chromemoly steel, this CNC-machined flywheel comes in at a svelte 14.7 lbs. It's certified to SFI Spec 1.1 standards and has an induction-hardened integral ring gear for increased durability.
We then slid on the clutch disc (PN 3000909). ACT Street discs feature premium organic material with increased friction, high copper content, and steel backed linings for better heat transfer and tolerance to reduce fade and increase clutch life.
Lastly, we put the pressure plate unit in place (PN GM015). Keep in mind the clutch kit doesn't include fasteners, so that OEM stuff needs to be reused. In the case of the flywheel bolts, we picked up new torque-to-yield pieces from our local GM dealer.
This was also the best time to ditch our vague GM shifter in favor of something a lot more precise. This Hurst Billet/Plus shifter (PN 391-5061) has a heat-treated billet steel gear selector for extra strength, and adjustable positive gear stops to help make sure we end up in the gear we're shooting for.
The Hurst shifter also came with a dust boot, chrome shifter handle, and oh-so-stylish knob. Licata reported that the new clutch and shifter made a world of difference in how the Camaro launches and rows through the gears.
Staying smog legal in California meant that we had to lose our dreams of high-flowing long-tube headers. To help ease the pain, we went with these lightweight CARB legal JBA shorties (PN 1808S-1JS).
The JBA mandrel-bent headers feature 1 5/8-inch primary tubes and are stainless steel with a silver ceramic coating. The coating can take up to 1500 degrees and will help keep the engine bay temps down a bit.
The beauty of these mods is that, from this view, one would be hard-pressed to see that performance parts were added. One visual part we did swap out was installing a COMP solid tensioner (PN 54025) in place of the spring-loaded one from GM. This should help keep us from tossing a belt at high rpm, plus it looks good.
Since our '01 was heading back east for the Holley LS Fest, we decided to have it tuned by our buddy Mike Norris in Indianapolis, Indiana. After some laptop tweaks, we nailed down a best pull of 362 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque. Certainly not "big power" by today's standards, but that extra bump should help us blow through the cones a bit quicker.
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